In the 80’s, before the technology boom, we had the telephone connected to a wire in the wall, a radio for music, and the television to watch after dinner. Our stress level at home was relatively low, and consolidated to the occasional rise of temperament regarding a rough day at work or school. Telephone soliciting had just become the norm, and analysts had figured out that dinnertime was the best time to reach unsuspecting consumers, so it seemed that the telephone would always ring just as we sat down at the table. Adults, mostly aggravated by this interruption, would make their feelings known to the credulous salesperson at the other end of the call, that is, if they answered the telephone at all. However, the overall stress level of adults in the room would change in the aftermath, and the children could feel it, even if there were no words spoken.
Today, we live our lives with bells, beeps, buzzers, dings, and for the technologically driven, ring tones from your favorite artist. We can even know who is calling by which sound our phone makes. We drive with our phones, and we sleep with our phones nearby or in some cases, under our pillow because we utilize the alarm to wake up in the morning. We are capable of screening our calls with just a ringtone, and we are available with our smartphones every moment of the day, whether we answer them or not. We never turn them off unless they need a reboot. Sometimes we do not want the interruption so we decline the call, or just let it ring. However, the ringing, buzzing, dinging and chiming are interruptions, and do trigger a stress related response in our bodies just like that old wall telephone ringing at dinnertime.
If you are very popular, and have subscribed to all of the alerts you could possibly receive through social media, financial institutions, email, and add to it the basic texting where anyone can interrupt your life and say what they want to you at any given time, you are stimulating your bodies stress response at random moments throughout the day. Even if all you are doing is sitting on the couch, and watching your favorite television show, your brain is still concentrating, and any device requiring your attention, or even encouraging it is processed as a disruption by your brain. Each time that bell, beep, buzzer or ding interrupts your life, your stress level increases. If you feel you can handle the fast paced alert system required with multitasking you need to consider your health above all else, and understand that these actions have reciprocal effects. “Humans are now more anxious and their attention span is weakened by the over stimulation from technology” (Cabral, 2011).
If you have ever been concentrating on any activity, and been constantly interrupted by an inquisitive spouse or child, you know the feeling that you acquire in response to their intrusiveness. It is aggravating, stressful, and an interruption. You know it. They know it. It is apparent by your reaction. The same is true with regard to those bells, dings, buzzers, and beeps. Even though your curiosity might fuel your need to know, it is better to conduct your activities without the extra brain interruptions, and silence your device until you can focus on that alone. Multitasking may be a great idea in theory, but it does nothing for productivity. If you find yourself more anxious and stressed than normal, you may need a pause and reset so that you can focus on one task at a time. Even if the task you are focusing on is relaxation, give it your complete attention. Stop worrying about everything else. Your body will thank you.
Cabral, J. (2011). Is Generation Y Addicted to Social Media?